Bhutan is renowned for its colourful festivals. Some Bhutan festivals (Tsechu’s) are now very well known amongst travelling circles and have become very popular tourist attractions too as a result.
Other Bhutan festivals remain a much more local affair and present a more intimate experience for the discerning traveller to Bhutan.
Here’s a selection of some (not all, there are way too many) festivals of Bhutan that can be enjoyed in various parts of Bhutan throughout the year.
Paro and Thimpu Festivals- The Big Two!
The Paro Tsechu held in mid-April and the Thimpu Festival in early October have now become mass market tourism affairs. For these festivals, both hotels and flights to Bhutan are often fully booked up to a year in advance.
Colourful and vibrant the Paro Festival attracts the Bhutanese faithful from afar as well as hordes of tourists too. A huge Thangka is displayed on the final day.
Thimpu Tsechu is probably the biggest and most popular festival in Bhutan. Masked dancers, jesters, thousands of locals from neighbouring Dzongkhas and lots of tourists amass in Thimpu.
Our selection of less touristy Festivals in Bhutan
The Black Necked Crane Festival
The Black Necked Crane is revered in Bhutan. In fact if anyone is caught harming or killing the endangered black-necked crane, they could be sentenced to prison for life.
Celebrated at Gangtey Gompa in mid-November, this annual Black Necked Crane festival honours not only the arrival of the sacred Black Necked Crane, but also serves as a conservation initiative. Dancers dress as Cranes and the local kids sing songs.
This is a rather different affair. It’s a celebration of the mountain communities that live beneath Chomolhari and the Snow Leopard. Not easy to get to though.
A trek to the foot of Chomolhari in mid-October is required! Highly recommended if you can though.
A bit different….this is a Mushroom Festival!
This Bumthang region Festival at Ura Gorund marks the start of Mushroom season in late August! Great for song, dance, Masutaki food specialities and for an insight into Bhutanese village life. The stunning Ura Valley is a suitable backdrop for this fascinating event.
Jambay Lhakang Drup
Once again in the Bumthang Valley area at Jambay Lhakang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan this is one of the most spectacular of all Bhutan festivals. The ritualistic, naked fire dance is a real highlight.
Definitely one to think about including if you’re visiting in Bhutan in mid-November.
Way “off the map”, attending this religious festival in late November itself is believed to earn you merit and the Bhutanese travel great distances to be part of this one. So will you! For the intrepid adventurer Cham dances, song and more await in the lands of the Tshanglas.
Haa Summer Festival
At Ha township nestled in the pristine Haa Valley this annual festival is a lively affair celebrating nomadic lifestyles, unique Bhutanese cuisine, traditional sports, songs and dance and with lots of “Ara”, a local spirit.
It takes place in early July, so expect to get wet if you attend this one as it’s rainy season in Bhutan at this time too.
Druk Wangyel Tsechu
An experience like no other and one that truly exemplifies Bhutanese culture and traditions. Introduced in 2011, this event celebrates a 2003 victory against Indian insurgents. The location?
The stunning Dochu La with panoramic Himalayan views too. The Dochu La is a 3140m road pass that links Thimpu with Punakha. This one day festival takes place in mid-December.
Punakha Dromche and Punakha Tsechu
These two combine to make six days of festival. Taking place in early March. First is the three day Punakha Dromche in the Punakha Dzong Courtyard, this festival is unique with a “Serda”, a magnificent procession re-enacting the 17th Century war with Tibet.
The Punakha Tsechu follows Punakha Dromche at the same location. Introduced in 2005 to preserve the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche in prayer and pilgrimage.
A very lively affair!
Three days of mask dances in mid-May with a procession carrying an image of Chana Dorji (Vajrapani) from the nearby Gaden Lhakhang in the Bumthang region down to the main lhankhang. The eve of the festival sees the frantic brewing of sinchhang (a spirit distilled from millet, wheat or rice) and a late-night exorcism.
These are just a handful of the many festivals in Bhutan.
To see a full list of all the festivals in Bhutan and when they take place, check out our